This is a list of the best prospects in the Padres’ organization.  To be eligible for this list a player must not have appeared in the majors. It’s a weird way to do things, but means more young prospects will appear.  Prospects are ranked both by their ultimate potential and the likelihood that they will reach that potential.  The easiest way to understand the rankings is to consider what order players would be selected in if the entire organization were eligible for a draft.  Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA) for each prospect is when they would reach the majors if they were able to reach their potential.

Notes carried over from the 2013 Top 25:

  • Prospects have been split into tiers to help get a better idea of the talent gap between players (i.e. the difference between position 1 and 2 may not be the same as the difference between position 14 and 15). It is safe to assume that all players in a tier could be rearranged without much argument.
  • Risk Factors have been included to help show the largest road block faced in each player’s development

Tier 1

1) Austin HedgesHedges split his age-20 season between High-A Lake Elsinore and Double-A San Antonio. While his overall offensive production doesn’t jump out at you, Hedges continues to be a tough out against advanced competition. He will head back to San Antonio to begin 2014, but minimal development is required before Hedges is able to contribute at the big league level. ETA: 2014

Risk Factor – Hedges is heading into 2014 with a slightly more aggressive swing path that should help him consistently drive balls and quiet lingering questions surrounding his bat

2) Rymer LirianoAfter missing the entire 2013 season due to Tommy John surgery, Liriano is back to wowing evaluators in live game action. He still possesses plus bat speed and power to go along with a developing hit tool, but the 500 missed at bats from last season have definitely slowed Liriano’s career path. Outfield playing time in San Diego should be tough to get this season, but expect Liriano to make a strong case in El Paso. ETA: 2014

Risk Factor – at this point Liriano appears clear of setbacks related to the surgery he had last spring, but there’s a chance he may not be fully right for another three-to-six months

3) Matt WislerWisler posted a stellar 2.78 ERA across two levels in 2013 while striking out 8.7 batters per nine innings and walking just 2.2. Ideally the Padres would like to give him 15-20 more starts before pressing him into action with the big club, but continued excellent results from Wisler and injury issues in the starting rotation may force their hand. ETA: 2014

Risk Factor – Wisler’s delivery has been smoothed somewhat by San Diego coaches (specifically balance and stride) but it remains unconventional

Tier 2

4) Max FriedWhile Fried didn’t quite ascend to the heights some expected in his first full season he was quite impressively consistent throughout. At just 20 years old Fried is already paced for an assignment to Lake Elsinore, which puts him on that fast track to San Diego. Look for Fried to take a step forward this year as his body maturation may be finally catching up to his electric raw ability. ETA: 2016

Risk Factor – Fried is already behind schedule after missing a few weeks due to a forearm issue. The Padres hope that is already behind him, but it’s worth keeping in mind when projecting Fried.

5) Hunter RenfroeThe Padres grabbed Renfroe in the first round of the 2014 2013 MLB Draft, and he immediately ranked as a top prospect in the system thanks to his well-rounded set of physical tools. From the draft-day story:

Renfroe climbed his way into the first round by actively showing four plus tools this season.

  • Arm: 60 – shows great strength but needs to improve accuracy
  • Defense: 60 – he’s playing center field at the moment, but his skillset is destined for right field
  • Power: 65 – he’s the all-time leader in Mississippi high school history for home runs
  • Speed: 60 – speed is really a separating factor for Renfroe as it will support both ends of his game

ETA: 2016

Risk Factor – Renfroe showed significant swing-and-miss issues during his introduction to professional baseball. It was the end of a long season, but the Padres are focused on tightening up his swing.

6) Franchy CorderoCordero possesses a rare combination of speed, power and athleticism that has him paced to become a dominant offensive weapon. Stories from scouts and evaluators are quickly becoming legendary as Cordero produces against advanced competition. The Padres will keep him at shortstop for 2014, but Cordero will have to show significant improvement in the field to hold off a move to third base or an outfield corner. ETA: 2018

Risk Factor – While Cordero has looked great in workouts, his highest level of in-game competition is the AZL

Tier 3

7) Zach EflinEflin utilized his fastball/changeup combination to dominate Low-A hitters. He was Fort Wayne’s most consistent pitcher throughout 2013 and effectively thrust himself onto the prospect map. If Eflin experiences the velocity bump many expect in 2014 he’ll have a shot at being a mid-rotation starter. ETA: 2017

Risk Factor – Eflin still has work to do with his delivery as he struggles with mechanical efficiency

8) Rodney “The Tulip” DaalDaal was dominant over the last 41 games of his season, posting a .320/.380/.477 line with four home runs. Combined with the significant step forward he took on the defensive end Daal is paced to become a unique two-way talent for the Padres. ETA: 2017

Risk Factor – Daal’s offensive outburst was combined with improvements on the defensive end, but he still has a long way to go to be an option a the big league level

9) Jesse HahnIf “when healthy” is what best describes the Padres as an organization Hahn fits right in. His electric fastball/curveball combination projects him in the middle of a big league rotation, but his near constant health issues – Tommy John in 2010 and an arm injury in 2013 – have been a significantly limiting factor. He’ll start the year in Double A but should make an appearance in San Diego before September. ETA: 2014

Risk Factor – he’s never experienced a full year’s workload as a professional and is 24 years old

10) Alex DickersonDickerson was dominant over the last 57 games of the 2013 season, posting a .341/.385/.585 line with 11 homeruns. While he has always had the physical ability to hit for average and power, it wasn’t until recently that Dickerson showed it on a consistent basis. The glove lags far behind, but it’s easy to see a situation where Dickerson is ready to spell Carlos Quentin after another half season in the minors. ETA: 2015

Risk Factor – Dickerson has battled back issues in previous seasons, which may have hampered his development to this point

11) Keyvius Sampson2013 was a tale of two seasons for Sampson as an improved slider led to a 2.26 ERA in Double A, but seemed ineffective in 38 Triple-A innings as Sampson’s ERA ballooned to 7.11. The Padres remain dedicated to letting Sampson find himself as a starter before resorting to relief duty, but unless he can harness his repertoire against advanced competition Sampson may be destined for bullpen work. ETA: 2014

Risk Factor – Sampson’s command eluded him at alarming rates in 2013, leading to serious questions about his long-term role

12) Jace PetersonFriendly reminder: Peterson is about to begin the third year of his life that will be focused completely on one sport. Peterson was fantastic in the second half of last season, showing an improved approach and clean action in the field. With Everth Cabrera and Jedd Gyorko cemented in the middle infield for the foreseeable future, Peterson may be forced to play more third base where his bat won’t play as well. ETA: 2015

Risk Factor – Peterson is about to turn 24 but has not yet played above High A

Tier 4

13) Joe RossShoulder injuries stalled the beginning of Ross’ 2013 campaign, but he managed to log 122 innings pitched in Fort Wayne. A drop in strikeout rate has concerned scouts, though Ross’ raw stuff is still some of the best in the system. Ross’ weak-contact profile will be tested as he heads to Lake Elsinore to start 2014. ETA: 2016

Risk Factor – Ross has faced injury issues in each of his professional season

14) Jose UrenaUrena is a prototypical right fielder with plus or better power potential and exceptional arm strength. He showed improvements in his contact skills, while maintaining a strong approach at the plate. Urena is headed to Fort Wayne in 2014 and should help head up an strong offensive team. ETA: 2017

Risk Factor – Urena doesn’t have much speed, meaning his success will hinge on the bat

15) Franmil ReyesReyes struggled in a short Northwest League stint before being demoted to the AZL where he dominated to the tune of a .315/.387/.467 line. Reyes possesses prodigious power and an approach at the plate that took advantage of his inexperienced competition. Once again, expect big things from Reyes. ETA: 2017

Risk Factor – Reyes is likely limited to leftfield work as his body fills out

16) Carlos BelenBelen has one of the most exciting bats in the system, as he’s shown impressive current power beyond his age. Belen’s 6-foot-1 frame is already quite large, minimizing his chances of staying at third. His arm is one of the strongest in the system allowing him remain playable in an outfield corner. ETA: 2017

Risk Factor – Belen is yet to face a level of competition that consistently knows where a pitch is headed

Tier 5

17) Jonathan Galvez – Galvez’ drop from the 11th spot on this list in 2013 is mostly due to the new depth that has been wedged in above him. Still a competent defender with an advanced bat, Galvez will need a change to happen in San Diego before he’ll receive a consistent shot. Look for him to contribute before this summer’s over. ETA: 2014

Risk Factor – After being slowed by an ankle injury in 2012, Galvez returned to his running ways in 2013 but lacked the efficiency needed to be a factor once in the majors

18) Jake BauersBauers is a really interesting name on this list as he will play his entire first full, professional season as an 18 year old in Fort Wayne. He had significant struggles against left-handed pitchers in 2013 in a small sample, but projects to have a quality bat the Padres are hoping can make him an effective player at first. ETA: 2018

Risk Factor – As referenced above, Bauers hit just .167/.245/.190 in 51 plate appearances against lefties in 2013

19) Cory SpangenbergWhile he doesn’t quite project to be the player the Padres thought they were getting in 2011, Spangenberg does have a skillset that gives him enough versatility to project on a major league roster in the near future. He’ll start 2014 in San Antonio, but expect to see him ready in the near future. ETA: 2014

Risk Factor – Spangenberg has struggled in the past with premium velocity, something he will see with great frequency in Double A

20) Travis JankowskiSome doubted Jankowski as a plus-plus runner coming out of the draft. His 71 steals (20 more than the next guy in the Cal League) seemed to have quieted that talk. Jankowski has a strong awareness of the strike zone, but hasn’t yet shown a consistent ability to control the inner half of the plate – something advanced pitchers will begin to exploit. ETA: 2016

23) Dustin PetersonThe Padres took Peterson with their second pick in the 2013 draft. A high school shortstop, Peterson has already been shifted over to third base as a professional. He’s ranked a bit low on this list as his bat speed looked a little slow in the only evaluation we’ve gotten. ETA: 2018

Risk Factor – Peterson showed he could handle mistakes, but still needs to show he’s able to hit advanced pitching

Tier 6

22) Walker WeickelWeickel fought his control throughout 2013, leading to overall poor results. But when on, Weickel was dominant with easy gas and an improving changeup. Tweaks to his delivery should lead to more consistency and better results in 2014. ETA: 2017

Risk Factor – If Weickel’s control remains an issue his options are limited, as he hasn’t shown the premium stuff necessary in short bursts to relieve

23) Jordan ParoubeckA significant shoulder injury ended Paroubeck’s season before it began after the Padres used their second-round selection on the talented outfielder. Paroubeck is a switch hitter with a smooth swing from both sides of the plate. The ceiling is extremely high, but the current skillset is raw. ETA: 2018

Risk Factor – Above all, Paroubeck needs repetitions. Any setbacks, like the shoulder injury, could stunt his development.

24) Mason SmithSmith showed great speed in the field and patience at the plate during his first season as a professional. He has a large frame – 6-foot-2 195 pounds – but is yet to produce much in-game power. ETA: 2018

Risk Factor – Smith grew up in small-town Idaho, meaning he is yet to face advanced competition on a consistent basis

25) Adrian De HortaDe Horta is still a bit of a sleeper at this point. He was an unheralded pick in the 8th round of the 2013 draft, but came out with an advanced three-pitch mix. De Horta relies on deception and location, but will get a chance to stick as a starter long term. ETA: 2018

Risk Factor – While De Horta looked like an advanced arm his competition was relatively weak

Toughest cuts – Josh Van Meter and Tony Rizzotti

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